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Arnold Clark defends dismissal claim

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Top 10 AM100 dealer Arnold Clark is defending an employment tribunal brought by a salesman who was sacked after being convicted of fraud.

Michael McGinley, a Gulf War veteran, was convicted for claiming more than £25,000 unemployment supplement by claiming he was unable to work because he suffered from Gulf War Syndrome, although he was employed as a sales executive at Arnold Clark's Machargs operation in Glasgow.

After his conviction McGinley was suspended then sacked for gross misconduct for bringing the company into disrepute and because Arnold Clark believed his future integrity and honesty had been brought into question by the fraud conviction as handling customers' cash was a part of his daily duties.

McGinley claims his sacking was unfair.

The Glasgow tribunal heard last Thursday that his former boss at Machargs Car Sales, Glasgow, had prepared a letter in advance of Mr McGinley’s court appearance which stated that he was “trustworthy and reliable.”

Geraldine Bjonness, the senior HR adviser with Arnold Clark who decided McGinley should be dismissed, told the tribunal how press reports about his court case had been brought to her attention by the marketing department and he was immediately suspended.

She said there were three newspaper articles which each named McGinley as a sales executive with the company.

Bjoness told the tribunal that at his disciplinary hearing McGinley had claimed the dealership was aware of the issue a year ago and yet he continued to work for the company.

But at that time he had not been convicted of defrauding a government body, added Bjoness.

“We now had new information that he had been convicted. We had to consider could we trust him dealing with cash on a daily basis. I considered that was a risk we could not take.”

Louise Woodward, also a senior HR adviser, who heard and dismissed his appeal against his dismissal, said the company did not decide to investigate the matter until the criminal proceedings had concluded, including sentencing.

She said a sanction other than dismissal was not appropriate. “It was clearly gross misconduct.”

Woodward acknowledged there had been no issue with his integrity or trustworthiness prior to the court case.

Questioned about the letter provided by his boss regarding his trustworthiness and reliability, she said: “His conviction clearly challenged that opinion and the company had to do all it could to protect its financial assets.”

McGinley argued he never tried to cover up the matter and had told Arnold Clark he was being investigated by the Ministry of Defence regarding his pension payment a year before his court appearance yet no action was taken.

The tribunal hearing continues.

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